Kitchen Tasks for Kids Ages 3-5

The subject of children’s kitchen tasks came up quite a bit during my recent round of interviews for cookbook promo, which got me thinking.

Over the years (we’ve had five good ones here) I’ve never really shared a guide to kid’s cooking skills by age. I’ve got children of my own in three distinct categories, so note-taking on this subject is easy. Noah, Mateo and Clara remind me daily of what they are capable of and are always surprising me with new accomplishments.

So this is the first post in a little blog series covering kitchen tasks for kids. We’ll look at ages 3-5, 6-8 and 9-11. After that they will be off and away on their own! Or at least that is the plan.

It’s important to remember that skills vary greatly at this age (and every age, really) so take this list with a grain of salt. Don’t worry if your pre-schooler isn’t making sandwiches or peeling eggs just yet.

clara snapping beans-1

Kitchen Tasks for Kids Ages 3-5

Clara has recently turned three and is showing off a whole new category of skills. “Let me do it.” “Don’t help me.” “I’m a big girl now.” These are daily quotes from her, reminding me that she is not a baby anymore. We are definitely off and away in the kitchen, developing a healthy family food culture and learning a lifetime of skills.

Cooking and baking with kids three, four and five is an exciting adventures! You can’t turn your back on them, for one thing. Review your kitchen safety, get set up with a roll of paper towels, and remember to be very patient. Ready, set, go!

Why my kids are making summer lunches  and ideas for easy lunches | SImple Bites banana bites

Breakfast

Kitchen tasks kids can do ages 3-5 | Simple Bites

Lunch/Snacks

  • Wash and dry lettuce and all salad greens
  • Cut softer fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers and bananas.
  • Add ingredients to the blender for smoothies
  • Grate zucchini and apple for Zucchini Apple Mini Muffins
  • Peel hard boiled eggs
  • Assembled basic sandwiches and wraps
  • Add ingredients for hummus

Kitchen tasks kids can do ages 3-5 | Simple Bites

Dinner

  • Peel garlic, root vegetables
  • Snap peas or beans
  • Wash produce
  • Strip leaves off of herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, etc)
  • Cut soft ingredients like tofu or mushrooms for Beef Stroganoff
  • Brush on barbecue sauce or marinades
  • Prepare and add pizza toppings (summer and winter)
  • Pulverize spices in a mortar and pestle

Kitchen tasks kids can do ages 3-5 | Simple Bites

Baking

Remember, they can set and clear the table now too. Happy cooking with kids, all!

Kitchen tasks kids can do ages 3-5 | Simple Bites

Do your preschoolers help in the kitchen? What sort of tasks are they helping with?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. Those photographs are just delightful!!! Our kids have always helped in the kitchen, I could never figure out how to keep them busy any other way… so dive in and help away, is the way to go. I think folk would be pleasantly surprised at just how adept little kids are in the kitchen and how they love being responsible and taken seriously for the efforts… if they were just given the chance. We are all for diving in to prepare, and also for cleaning up together afterwards, kids love cleaning up and I make full use of their heartfelt efforts in our home!!!

  2. My son is five and he is not as excited about helping as he used to be, but he still likes to measure and mix ingredients for baking, roll out dough, and wield a cookie cutter. He’s responsible for clearing up his own dishes and he has a snack shelf so he can serve himself cereal, crackers, fruit, and milk (from a small pitcher on the lowest shelf of the fridge.

    Would you mind if I used your list and made a printable (credited, of course)? I teach head start and I think this would be helpful information for my parents.

    • Hi Muriah,

      As long as you are not making money from the printable, that would be fine. Please include a mention of this website somewhere. Thanks!

  3. Eleanor’s almost 5, and she does all of these, except the cutting. Knives make me nervous! Do you let Clara use a sharp knife? Or a butter knife?

    (Sidenote: another benefit of kids in the kitchen: I always have E read me the recipes, and because I often double things she’s already very good at fractions! Yay baking math.)

    • Jessica – Clara’s started with a small pairing knife, but she’s not to interested, so I’ll give her another year. (My boys were always OVERY interested in the knives. Lol)

    • I have found that a plastic serrated knife is sharp enough to cut quite a bit, but not so bad for the skin if your child slips. We keep one in our drawer just for the purpose our kids helping us cut in the kitchen.

  4. Our boys (now nearly 7 & 13) loved to “drive” the mixer when they were little… which was great as long as I remembered to put on the splash guard. Otherwise, zero-to-sixty got a bi-i-i-i-t messy… : )

    • Pippa – Hilarious! Thanks for the great visual. I know all about such messes.

    • My daughter had the same problem – going from zero to top speed in one shove of the switch. We figured out that if she puts her finger in front of the switch, the switch will only move 1-2 speeds, instead of 8 all at once 🙂
      Thought it might help when you don’t want to dig out the splash guard.

  5. These pictures are so cute! My kids helped a lot in the kitchen at that age, and now that they’re just a bit older ( 7 &6) they are now using knives to help with kitchen prep and able to mix things safely at the stove. It’s wonderful. I honestly love cooking and baking much more than when it was just me and about 4 pots and pans. They enjoy it, too.
    I gave them many of the tasks you have laid out here, though I found honestly the hardest thing to just be their patience, and since there were two of them…the turn taking! They just wanted to get into all of it at the same time.
    Sarah M

    • Sarah, good point. I work with my boys one-on-one (they are 7 and 9) as things get competitive fast.
      Love what you are doing in the kitchen with your kids; keep it up.

  6. She’s a natural in the kitchen AND in front of the camera!

    Thanks for the great kiddo tips!

  7. I just spent 3 weeks in Maryland as temporary nanny to a friend’s 4 year-old as she just had her second child. Adina (said 4 year-old) and I made jam bars together and she was great at the sifting, mixing & measuring (and dumping!). She is also fascinated by the grill (many, many lectures on fire/hot grill safety) and by chopping/prep of vegetables. She now claims proudly that she LOVES cabbage (taco night success!) and is addicted to pistachios since I showed her the trick of prying open a stubborn shell with one half of another shell.

  8. How do you boil eggs so that they peel easily?

    • Kat –

      Start with eggs and cold water to cover by at least an inch.
      Bring to a boil.
      Boil ONE minute.
      Cover with a lid and turn off the heat.
      Let stand 6 minutes (some say 10, I like mine a little softer)
      Drain and plunge eggs into an ice bath (this is key)
      Cool for at least 5 minutes
      Crack all over on a counter. Peel with ease.

  9. Fun discovery I had with my almost three year old this week was the assembly line of making chicken tenders. He loved dredging in flour, dipping in egg and then covering in panko/coconut! I was impressed with how well he did. I think he really liked the whole assembly line set-up!

  10. OMG Clara looks so much like her mama in that denim shirt and high bun! Too cute! And her smile is infectious!

  11. My little boys (now almost 9 and 4 & 1/2) both loved slicing mushrooms and topping/tailing green beans. They learned to roll out pie crust/cookies/pizza dough, and now my almost 9 years old is a master egg breaker and LOVES to bake his own signature cookies (from a recipe he read in a book, copied, and asked to bake!!!!!) We never had knife incidents: the children quickly learned that only certain knives were accessible to them and never tried to used different ones. I think teaching scissor skills/knife skills is very good for them, because they can really feel that there ARE things they can do instead of a long list of thing they CANNOT do 🙂 Plus, anything they help cook tastes SOOOOO much better 🙂

  12. What an awesome list! I think my little one has done most of what is on this list except clearing the table….but I think it’s about time! Thanks for a wonderful post. Clara’s face in the second to last photo is just the sweetest!

  13. Waw! Now I have great ideas for tonight… Our kids (one is 2 and the other is 5) generally help us set the table and help putting the dishes on the counter after the meals. They also mix well for cakes 🙂

  14. So helpful! Thank you!

  15. I really need to let John help me more in the kitchen when I’m cooking/baking. The list of suggestions here is amazing!

  16. Hi Aimee! This is a great list. I was so looking forward to the time my daughter could help around the kitchen, and she is finally there! She doesn’t do a ton (she’s only 2.5), but I think its important to teach them how to prepare the food, so they will be more inclined to be healthy and enjoy the food. Thanks for more ideas!

  17. Hello Aimee! This is such a great article; your little Clara is too precious! That focus she has on peeling those eggs… 😉

    My boys are 3 & 5 and they love to help in the kitchen. At first, I used to get frustrated with the mess but realized that it’s all part of the learning process (crumbs can wait!). As you’ve mentioned, establishing and maintaining a healthy family food culture is incredibly important. It takes time. Patience. Practice- and that’s what keep me motivated. These life skill are invaluable!

    Have a wonderful weekend! xo

    • Emilie, you are in the thick of it with a 3yo and a 5yo. It’s going to get waaaaay better and your hard work and time invested will pay off. The next stage (6-8) is sooooo fun, so hang in there.

  18. One more thing that preschoolers are great at is juicing lemons, limes, and oranges. That’s a common “work” in a Montessori classroom and very satisfying for little muscles.

  19. Renee P. says:

    These pictures are killing me!!! She’s TOO cute! I love the smile + bun!!!!
    I have to go back and read the article now…

  20. Any tips on how to teach them to crack eggs?? that one makes me nervous.

  21. Great, helpful list! You are always so inspiring for getting your kids involved in the kitchen. I love how much they want to help and how much they are capable of. I look forward to when my oldest can make us a meal all by himself.

    I think I will always remember the story of Mateo (or Noah?) filling your glasses with orange juice in such an creative, if not unconventional, way! 😉

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